Scorsese and "Hugo" team up to celebrate movie making

Tue Nov 22, 2011 4:20pm EST
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By Jordan Riefe

NEW YORK (Reuters) - French film pioneer Georges Melies directed over 500 movies at the turn of the 20th century, but few of them survived.

Melies was forced to melt down many of his films to sell the chemical residue for the manufacture of footwear, and after World War I, he wound up a broken and bitter purveyor of toys in a shop at Paris' Montparnasse train station.

Martin Scorsese, director of classics like "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull," had never undertaken a family film before. But Brian Selznick's bestselling novel, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," with its focus on early cinema, was a perfect fit for the Oscar-winning director who is passionate about film preservation.

"There was an immediate connection to the story of the boy, his loneliness, his association with the cinema, with the machinery of creativity," said Scorsese of his new movie.

"Everything done in film today began with Georges Melies. And when I go back and look at his original films, I feel moved and inspired because they are among the first, powerful expressions of an art form that I've loved and to which I've devoted the better part of my life."

"Hugo", opening in U.S. theaters on Wednesday, is the name of an orphan (Asa Butterfield) living in the Montparnasse train station in Paris in 1931. A chance encounter with Melies leads to a friendship with his adopted daughter, Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), and an adventure into the early days of cinema.

For actor Ben Kingsley, portraying Melies was no easy task. He had little to draw upon except for Melies' films, in which the director often cast himself.

"I was able to watch him at the absolute peak of his career," said Kingsley. "Fit like an athlete, fit like a dancer, amazing imagination, spectacular dexterity in his movements and disciplining everyone around him."   Continued...